Convergence Plus
Saturday, March 23, 2019
Sterlite forays into telecom access solutions, teams up with Reliance Jio for last mile fibre connectivity

Sterlite forays into telecom access solutions, teams up with Reliance Jio for last mile fibre connectivityThe Pune-based company, according to the top executive, is currently doing a Proof of Concept (PoC) for its newly-unveiled fibre-to-the-last mile or FTTx as a service platform with the India's third-largest telco. Homegrown fibre manufacturer Sterlite Tech, a Vedanta Resourcescompany has entered into telecom network market to provide integrated services to telcos, and is currently doing a Proof of Concept (PoC) for its newly-unveiled fibre to the last mile solution with Reliance Jio.

“We are looking beyond fibre. We now design end-to-end network solutions for fibre-to-the-home, fibre-to-the-enterprise, and fibre-to-the-small cells,” Anand Agarwal, group chief executive of Sterlite Tech told ETTelecom, adding that the new portfolio involves end equipment and software as well as a deployment solution.

The Pune-based company, according to the top executive, is currently doing a Proof of Concept (PoC) for its newly-unveiled fibre-to-the-last mile or FTTx as a service platform with the India's third-largest telco.

Agarwal said the company’s activity is centered around the access part of telecom networks which are increasingly becoming fibre-oriented with open-source hardware and software readily available for network management.

The development on the back of Elitecore acquisition, however, would make Sterlite to partially compete with the likes of multinationals such as Cisco, Amdocs, Ciena and Juniper Networks, and as well as Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia.

With the telecom software company Elitecore Technologies’ merger in 2015, Sterlite is now well poised to market Operations Support Services (OSS) and Business Support Services (BSS) solutions to telecom companies.

The telecom arm of the mining giant offers optic fibre infrastructure, Wi-Fi systems, in-building solutions, managed services and metro Ethernet network in addition to various software-driven services.

The company, according to the top executive, design and deploy network solutions and besides Mumbai-based Jio, it is also running pilot programs with Sunil Mittal-driven Bharti Airtel as well as recently-merged entity Vodafone Idea.

“For Jio’s 1,100 cities and 50 million homes, fibre is the key and for doing that, the execution plays a major role, and a part of our solutions work towards faster execution together with our hardware capability,” Agarwal said.

The oil-to-telecom conglomerate is aggressively working on home broadband service Jio GigaFiber, which, according to the Mumbai-based company would come with a router as well as a set-top box for TV.

However, Sterlite is already providing fibre to the billionaire Mukesh Ambani's ambitious Jio GigaFiber initiative.

The company's debut of FTTx Mantra or massive agile network transformation solution is aimed to make service operators’ transition to fibre-powered backhaul, much needed to precipitate fourth-generation (4G) technology and upcoming 5G rollouts.

The telecom arm of Reliance Industries is now looking to further expand fibre-based networks to as many as 1,500 cities to connect more than 30 million merchants and small-and-medium businesses in addition to large corporations.

Ambani, however, also said that Jio was determined to move India to be among the top three markets in fixed-line broadband services.

In wireline broadband penetration, India currently ranks at 134th position worldwide.

The capabilities of two domestically-grown companies when combined, according to analysts, would be a win-win situation, and that would also accelerate the country’s economic activity in line with government’s Make in India initiative.

Jio did not respond to an e-mailed query.

On the back of robust order book, the company has almost doubled the fibre production capacity to 50 million route kilometer (rkm).

The company, according to the top executive, sees opportunity in government’s Wi-Fi push, and said that as more telecom networks continue to come to rural India combined with Wi-Fi systems, the company would holistically look into the new opportunity.

In line with the government’s ambition, the telecom industry aims to deploy 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots before the end of 2019 in the country.

For the fiscal ended March 31, 2018, Sterlite had reported a revenue of Rs 3,244 crore.

India currently has less than a quarter of 4.75 lakh tower sites connected to optic fibre while another 100,000 tower sites, according to industry estimates, were needed to cater to the rising data demand.

Sterlite’s 48% revenue comes from the global business while the company, according to Agarwal, is growing at around 29% Year-on-Year. It has recently won the Indian Navy’s Rs 3,500-crore worth deal to design, build, operate and maintain the latter’s digital network. (Source:ETTelecom)

One of the toughest CEO positions is being filled in India

One of the toughest CEO positions is being filled in India WhatsApp has announced that it would appoint the head of its India operations by year-end. There were reports of the company looking for its India head in April too. With WhatsApp messages increasingly being seen as a tool to incite mob violence, the company is under pressure to have a local team with a head. In September, it appointed a grievance officer for India after facing pressure from the government. Now the government has demanded that the officer be stationed in India instead of the US. ..

That will expose the officer to Indian law.

While India CEO of WhatsApp is a covetous position, it comes with its own perils when there is an increasing perception in the government that the company is not doing enough to curb the spread of fake messages that incite violence.

The position of Whatsapp India head might come with personal legal liability. The messaging platform has run into trouble in other parts of the world over messages being circulated on its platform. In 2016, a senior executive of Facebook Inc was arrested in Brazil over a court’s demand that the company provide data from its WhatsApp messaging service to help in a drug-trafficking investigation.

"Our new head of WhatsApp India, who will be named by the end of the year, will build a local team that can serve our customers in India as well as work with partners and government leaders to help keep people safe," WhatsApp said in an email statement to PTI.

In April, WhatsApp released the job description on Facebook: "WhatsApp is seeking an exceptional individual to lead our efforts in India including products for people and businesses along with our interest in peer to peer payments. This is a senior leadership position that requires product experience as well as a track record of success leading partnerships and business development in India. This leader will need to build a close partnership with product and engineering teams to influence direction and to effectively represent WhatsApp’s long term strategy."

WhatsApp came under fire in india following a spate of lynching incidents purportedly triggered by provocative messages circulating on its platform. So much so that Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had warned that WhatsApp could face abetment charges if they did not follow Indian law.

The sticking point between WhatsApp and the government is sharing of user details. The government says it wants only only traceability and not decryption of messages. It wants only location and identification of the sender of WhatsApp messages when such messages lead to provocation of violence. However, the company has said multiple times that ensuring traceability would break its end-to-end encryption standard. In an email interview to ET, WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels said the messaging service was unlikely to give up on the “core” issue of maintaining its encryption standards.

WhatsApp India CEO will have to navigate these vexatious issues which will get even more complex in the next year when general elections are scheduled to be held. (Source: Economic Times)

First 5G iPhone to hit the stores in 2020: Report

First 5G iPhone to hit the stores in 2020: ReportIntel to provide iPhone 5G modem, while Qualcomm-powered Android smartphones with 5G capability will start rolling out next year. The first 5G iPhone is likely to use an Intel modem, the 8161, and it could hit stores in 2020, according to a report in Fast Company.

If everything goes as planned, Intel will be the sole provider of iPhone modems, said the report.

For prototyping and testing of the 5G iPhone, Intel is reportedly working on a precursor to the 8161modem, called the 8060.

To increase transistor density for more speed and efficiency, Intel is likely to fabricate the 8161 using its 10-nanometre process.

The performance of 8060 appears to have triggered a little tension between Apple and Intel due to “heat dissipation issues” that would both raise the temperature and hurt battery life, the report said.

However, Apple’s current issues with Intel are not serious enough to cause Apple to turn to Qualcomm for the supply of 5G modems, said Fast Company report, based on its source.

Apple declined to comment on the report.

The first 5G smartphone is expected next year.

Android phones from manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei will contain 5G modem chips made by Qualcomm, which has claimed that its modems have managed the heat dissipation issues, the report said. (Source:ETTelecom)

iPhone sales set to drop for first time in 4 years

iPhone sales set to drop for first time in 4 years Apple’s India love affair is falling apart with sales dropping by a one-fourth with fans moving to Chinese competitors for their next smartphone. “Apple iPhone volumes are set to drop by as much as 25 per cent this fiscal as the new iPhones are exorbitantly priced while the old ones are still being sold without enough discounts,” Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research, told BusinessLine.

Counterpoint estimates Apple will be able to sell only 2-2.3 million iPhones this calendar year compared with over three million last year. This would be the first drop in iPhone sales in four years.

In terms of revenues, Counterpoint Research estimates that if Apple is able to sell high value models such as iPhone X, XS or XR in the current quarter, it may end the year flat but that’ll remain a challenge.

In favour of Android
“Even in the annual e-commerce sales this year, iPhones didn’t sell well. The market is rapidly shifting in favour of Samsung and OnePlus for higher value phones. Apple will face a tough time trying to avoid a drop in iPhone revenues this year,” said Shah.

The biggest reason for the drop is Apple’s change in India strategy. While the iPhone maker was seen heavily discounting its older models last year to penetrate a market with high latent demand for the Apple brand, earlier this year, Apple took a U-turn in favour of maintaining a premium brand image.

The company consolidated its distributors, cut down on offers and kept the price of the newly launched iPhones at about 40 per cent higher than last year’s flagship device, the iPhone X.

Weak rupee
Currency weakness is a part of the challenge but the bigger issue is Apple’s resistance to start local manufacturing, except for just one old model, to get tax advantage.

Since nearly every iPhone sold in India is imported from the US, it attracts 20 per cent duty as compared to 10 per cent last year. Apart from Apple, every other smartphone maker manufactures phones in India.

According to analysts, iPhone sales in the quarter ended September 30 fell by half, to 450,000 units in India compared with 900,000 units last year. This also led to the company’s marketshare drop by more than half to just about 1 per cent.

The upcoming quarter is not likely to offer any respite for Apple. While typically third and fourth quarters are the best quarters for Apple’s iPhone sales, this festival season has showered its blessings on Chinese smartphone makers instead of the iconic Apple brand.

“Typically Q4 (October-December) is the best quarter for Apple in India. Last year, they sold about 1.1 million units but this year, we expect them to sell at best 750,000 units in Q4,” said Shah.

Telcos divided over spectrum pricing, timing of auctions

Telcos divided over spectrum pricing, timing of auctions  Vodafone Idea, Bharti AirtelNSE 2.91 % and Reliance Jio Infocomm are sharply divided over the timing of spectrum auctions and the pricing of airwaves, setting the stage for intense lobbying as the Department of Telecommunications prepares the roadmap for the next sale.

Jio wants all available bandwidth to be offered immediately and has no problems with the prices recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Second-ranked Bharti Airtel wants a “swift” auction but only of 4G airwaves in the year ending March 2019 at reduced starting prices and it backed a 5G spectrum sale only in FY20. Market leader Vodafone Idea does not want any auction until 2020 and has called on the government to fix the health of the telecom sector in the interim.

The government hasn’t set any clear timelines, with telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan saying only that the 5G spectrum sale is expected in the second half of 2019. DoT officials privately say that an auction is unlikely in FY19, given that the industry is burdened with debt of over Rs 7 lakh crore, but don’t rule out a staggered sale, especially if it’s needed to cater to the government’s fiscal needs in an election year.

Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio, which started services a little over two years ago, rejected any move to delay a sale.

“We are interested in acquiring more spectrum and expect the government to auction spectrum available with it at the earliest,” Mathew Oommen, president of Jio, told ET.

He added that the government should auction airwaves regularly so that telcos are able to optimise their networks and ensure the highest quality of service.

Jio’s eagerness is understandable, given that the company has to cater to surging demand, mainly for data, from its rapidly increasing subscriber base. It has added users at a record pace – over 13 million in September – to close the month with over 252 million users. The same month, its two main rivals lost close to 9 million users.

While Oommen didn’t respond to ET’s query on pricing, sources said Jio accepts the rates recommended by Trai.

In August, Trai recommended the auction of airwaves across seven 4G bands, besides 5G spectrum. The regulator slashed the base price of the premium 700 MHz band by 43% to Rs 6,568 crore a unit and set Rs 492 crore per unit as the minimum rate for 5G.

Bharti Airtel is keen on buying 4G airwaves in this financial year, but wants a reduction in prices, the telco said in a statement to ET.

“We would request Trai and DoT to review the reserve price of spectrum in sub-GHz bands,” the company said.

Airtel also sought reserve prices for spectrum across all circles since harmonisation of airwaves – or making airwaves available in continuous blocks – and taking back spectrum from those that have shut operations could lead to availability of bandwidth in all service areas.

Jio’s Oommen rejected Airtel’s contention for a 5G sale to be deferred. The practice of auctioning all spectrum, whenever available, as endorsed by the Supreme Court and Trai and consistent with the National Digital Communications Policy 2018, “is a prudent policy and will go a long way in ensuring certainty, transparency and policy stability,” Oommen said. According to SS Sirohi, a former senior DoT official who was part of the Telecom Commission, the government is bound to auction all available airwaves immediately. “The Supreme Court has told the government to auction whatever spectrum is available with it and the government also gave an undertaking to the apex court to do so. It can’t hoard spectrum,” said Sirohi. He said airwaves lying vacant with the government meant loss of money to the exchequer. Vodafone Idea, with debt of over 1 lakh crore and in the midst of a costly and time-taking integration after their merger, is in no mood to buy additional bandwidth. “Telecom service providers are currently spectrum-sufficient and focused on optimising 4G and making their networks 5G-ready. Once the 5G ecosystem and enabling hardware is suitably developed and India-specific use cases successfully piloted, the need for more quality spectrum will arise. This is likely to take up to 2020,” the company said in a statement to ET. The telco asked the government to make spectrum “affordable and available.” (Source: Economic Times)

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